The sun has been shining despite a volcanic ash cloud hovering somewhere up there too… London marathon is this very weekend which means Spring is in the air… Though for many, it seems as if much stress is upon us too.

Many friends and colleagues of mine feel overworked, overscheduled, and way underpaid. They have too many tasks on their outlook calendars and task lists, and so many of them do not seem to have any idea how to balance it all or what to focus on first…. It results in several of those ‘hands on face’ moments.

A really old friend of mine is currently attempting to organise a wedding on a tight budget, finish writing her first book under a deadline from the publisher, earn a living, help her future husband’s latest business venture, and do a tai chi course… Another friend is finishing off a research doctorate, complaining to me about writing up his accounts, spending many social hours searching for a girlfriend, and, well, that’s enough for him… My students tell me regularly that fitting in their monthly homework with living their lives is a struggle and a half… Just this very week my own financial advisor advised me that he just enrolled in a time-management programme…. That worried me somewhat.

When did we become a world of folk incapable of managing our time?

Whilst chatting to my own mentor this week, he said that it is not about managing time, it is actually about managing ourselves. You see, at their cores, people often don’t know who they want to be in the world. They rush around with a million things on their plate, playing many different roles…. Yet many don’t have a vision for themselves and so everything becomes a priority.

I tend to recommend that we all first get some clarity on our deeper purpose. And really, that is the toughest part… Your purpose isn’t what you do for a living either’s your life’s purpose.

Having some kind of a vision and a sense of purpose is so useful. I am not necessarily saying that you all need to know what you want for the rest of your life, of course not, but that you give yourself a sense of purpose. I have a kind of mission statement that came from my early work in these fields; I encountered so many people that had dreams but had no resources, abilities or knowledge of how to achieve them that I vowed to help as many people as I possibly could achieve their dreams. This still serves as one of my purposes. However, I have other purposes on a daily basis and on a yearly basis that change and become organically different. There is a notable difference between setting yourself goals to achieve, tasks to tick off each day and having a sense of purpose.

– The goals you set yourself have the potential to be achieved. Your purpose is not finite. Your purpose provides the fuel that drives us towards our goals and their achievement.

– The goals we set ourselves can often fail to live up to what we wanted. Having a sense of purpose always rewards you.

– All our goals exist in the future whereas your purpose is an expression of who you are and who you choose to be. It grows out of our past and relates to our present and future.

Life continues to show us more and more opportunities to explore and exercise our life’s purpose, it has been my experience that when we actually start looking and noticing and being aware of ourselves, our purpose is usually there. Ask yourself some questions.

-What am I passionate about? What pushes my buttons or turns me on?

-What is it about this that gets me so involved?

-What does it do for me? Regardless of how unusual the answer to this may be, really take note of it and ask yourself “What does that do for me?” Keep on asking that question, “and what does that do for me?” until you cannot ask it anymore. What you are doing is asking what the purpose is behind it and you get more and more significant answers as you keep asking the question. When you get to the stage where you can’t ask the question any further, you have discovered the purpose behind your passion.

-What did you love as a child? Is it still important to you? Again, ask yourself the questions from the previous one to get your purpose behind that thing. Is that purpose still valid? Has it changed? Have you lost touch with it somehow?

Once you’ve got your deeper purpose, everything you do should line up with that direction. If you are stressing out as you wade through your tasks for the day, divide them into an A, B, and C list. A tasks are part of your vision, B you can take or leave, C are basically a waste of your time. Lastly, think progress not perfection. Do less per week, but focus on what really matters to you.

Now take a deep breath, these steps should help you to relieve stress and enjoy living a bit more… Love that spring sunshine…